In a sleepy village about 15km from Chogoria town in Tharaka-Nithi County, criminals are learning the ways of the wild, wild west.
In Magutuni, Mwimbi division, locals have been waking up to all manner of crimes, forcing authorities to shine a powerful spotlight on the happenings.
Recently, a nine-year-old girl Debra Kagendi, who was a Grade Two pupil at the nearby Kiurani Primary School, was beheaded in a suspected ritualistic sacrifice, which left many Kenyans in shock.
The body of the girl was found at the home of a suspected witch-doctor, Mr Suleiman Mati Mukiira, 94, on January 17, 2021.
Following the incident, police arrested Mukiira and Mr Michael Ngugi Riungu, 32, who were presented in court as suspects.
The area accounts for the most cases of murder, rape, defilement, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and consumption of illicit brew in the county.
The high crime rate led to the establishment of Ntumu Police Station but little has been achieved so far despite the 24-hour patrols by the officers.
In December 2020, the village was in the headlines after a senior police officer was reportedly found with six teenage boys in his house in what was suspected to be a case of sexual assault. The matter is in court.
In January, a one-month-old boy died after a traditional doctor plucked out his natal teeth with a razor blade, while one Derick Muchiri was also arrested for allegedly sodomising his 18-month-old son.
Despite numerous crackdowns on liquor dens, the illegal trade continues unabated with many young men getting trapped in alcoholism.
Law enforcers are spending sleepless nights racking their brains to come up with new strategies to deal with a vicious spate of crime in the area.
Patrols have been stepped up and officers from a special crime investigation unit sent to monitor activities of suspected criminals.
Maara Sub-County Police Commander Mohammed Jarso says Magutuni requires a unique approach in tackling crime.
Speaking to journalists in Chogoria town, Mr Jarso attributed the high crime rate to the local culture and called for concerted efforts to turn things around. “Magutuni is an exceptional area in regards to crime and requires special attention to change it,” said Mr Jarso.
During the burial of the murdered Grade Two girl, Mwimbi division assistant county commissioner Elaine Kaale decried the rampant crime targeting women and girls.
She accused the residents of hiding criminals and failing to volunteer information that could help to restore the rule of law. “We are all to blame for the crime because, as residents, we don’t reveal the criminals raping women and defiling our girls,” said Ms Kaale.
Religious leaders and the Ameru Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders have planned separate pray events to “cleanse the area and get rid of evil spirits” causing crime.
Interestingly, one of Magutuni’s famous sons was Mastermind Tobacco’s Wilfred Murungi, who died in 2019.